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Boss Giving Nothing Away

Newcastle United FC

Alan Pardew has offered few clues as to his team selection for Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby - but hinted that Hatem Ben Arfa will be on the bench

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Alan Pardew is keeping his cards close to his chest ahead of Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby.

The Newcastle boss was without Steven Taylor against Benfica on Thursday night after the defender picked up a training ground knock while Mathieu Debuchy and Cheick Tiote have both been sidelined since last month's defeat at Wigan.

Whether any of them will be fit to face Sunderland remains a closely guarded secret, with Pardew giving little away about his team selection.

"We'll have to wait and see - I'm not really going to give any news about my injuries and who's fit and who isn't available," he teased.

"But we'll have a strong team."

One player who will be involved, however, is Hatem Ben Arfa who made his return from a hamstring problem in the second half against Benfica.

Pardew said: "He's an X factor player, there's no doubt about that.

"He won't start tomorrow, he's not ready to start, but any impact at any time he's there and any time after half time I'll be looking at him.

"He seems to have come through yesterday with no ill effects. He's not that stiff, which we thought maybe he would be because it was a little bit longer than we planned for him to play.

"But he certainly lifted the crowd and lifted the team. He's got fantastic ability and we're very lucky to have him."